Philippines: Taal Volcano Crater Lake

Short background on myself: I was born in Germany and currently based there, but I had spent 13 years in the Philippines. It’s where I went to school, met most of my friends, and where most of my family still lives – in the beautiful city of Tagaytay, in the province of Cavite. Tagaytay City is a favoured tourist spot because of its cool climate and because from there, nature shares with us a ridiculously beautiful view of the Taal Lake, and of the Taal Volcano, also known as the smallest volcano in the world. The Taal Lake is also the largest lake on an island in the world.

Fun Fact: That cone right in the center is not the volcano itself, although often mistaken by tourists. It’s just part of the whole thing, but in itself it’s a volcano called Binintiang Malaki.

Nevertheless, it’s a breathtaking vista and people just keep coming back, myself included. The city is also conveniently close to Manila, which makes it easily accessible to the crowds.

As a local, I had always been curious about what’s inside the volcano. In my 13 years in the country, I had countless chances to go on a hike but never actually went and neither has most of my family.

The Tour

We took the tour on my second day back in the country and, by we I meant myself, three cousins from the Philippines, four cousins from Germany including their respective partners, my mum and my aunt. We rented out a van including a skilled driver who knows his way around the hairpin curves of Tagaytay-Talisay Road, the one that, from the name itself, connects Tagaytay City to Talisay, Batangas – where our transfer to the volcano starts off.

Van + driver rental inclusive of gasoline costs: 2000 PHP or ca. 35 € (c/o Mum because she’s generous like that)

We were supposed to leave at 6 AM but because my cousins hadn’t been ready when we arrived at their doorstep to pick them up, we had a bit of a delay. We had breakfast at Sinangag Express (although not along the way but it was worth the inconvenience) and bought a litre of water each at one of the many 24h convenience stores in the area. This had proven to be helpful for what was waiting for us down the road. We arrived at around 8:30 AM at our resort of choice (they also offer accommodations), made the arrangements, and got on our respective boats. Each boat was able to accommodate up to 7 people so it was just right, us being 14 people in total. We were given two options regarding the trail we would take. We decided on the Secret Trail, which was a bit pricier and also a little more challenging.

Boat: 3000 PHP, total of 6000 PHP
Entrance fee on the island: 100 PHP each, total of 1400 PHP
Docking fee: 50 PHP per boat, total of 100 PHP

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The boat ride took about 45 minutes, and at about 10 AM we were at the shore of the volcano island. We were offered a guide by our boatman but we refused as advised by my sister, who took the same tour a few weeks prior. She said there is absolutely no need for it because the trail is easy to follow. We walked on and found ourselves at the bottom of the trail. Just imagine having to step on hot sand going up a steep path and that for about 45 minutes!

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It goes waaay up

I remind them from time to time to look back and breathe in the view.
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This man goes up and down this trail on his horse to sell water at the top.

On the way up, my aunt got dizzy after going up a few metres of extreme steep. I turned to my mum, who was standing a few metres behind us and asked her for a Dextro Energy (glucose cube, she’s diabetic so she always carries these around with her) but soon realised that she was feeling the same way after taking on the same path (or maybe it’s just one of those sister things, they’re pretty close). Now, they each took a cube and felt so much better almost instantly, but they asked us to go on and they’ll follow after, what we later found out, taking a power nap in the shade of a tree. I honestly didn’t expect them to come anymore after what happened but I guess they just didn’t want to miss out on what was waiting for us all up there.

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And I must say, it was all worth it.
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We rested for a while, perhaps about 45 minutes, to take pictures and enjoy the view. After a while my mum and aunt arrived on the viewing deck and we saw how happy they were to have made it. Cold bottled water was sold on the deck for 50 PHP each (500ml) which is nothing for us who really needed it and also a big help to the vendor who is a local of the island. I even think it’s smarter to buy more once up there instead of bringing so much with you which can get heavy and get you tired easier.

So the way down was pretty easy, except for some very steep parts where you have to really watch your steps. If the hike up took about 45 minutes, going down only takes 30 minutes. The view here is also really nice so I guess that helped a lot.

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It got a bit windy on the ride back but our captain, who looked not older than 10 years old, seemed to be enjoying himself.

Tips:

  • If you want to visit the Taal Volcano, there are many tour operators who offer this trip that can pick you up right from your hotel in Manila. Otherwise you may also choose to go with your own vehicle and pick one of the many boat ride offers on the streets of Talisay, Batangas.
  • The locals will try to sell you a tour guide for the reason that you might step on uneven, soft ground, which never happened to us but they might be able to give you some trivial information about the place.
  • Please refrain from taking a horse on the way up. They will try to give you one, but once you’re there you will notice that most of the horses are tired and in poor condition.
  • Bring water — I suggest bring 1 litre each unless you’re a heavy drinker, then bring some more. It will be scorching hot on the way up and you will need it. There are no stores along the way but there is a vendor right at the top with cold bottles of water (500ml, 50 PHP each) and Gatorade (500ml, 70 PHP each). Once you get there, your bottle might probably be empty so it’s time for a refill. Don’t bring too much on the way up so you don’t get more tired from carrying heavy bottles around and also to help the local vendor make some money as well.
  • Please throw your trash in the trash bags available right at the top and right at the bottom.
  • Our resort, 26 Santa Maria Resort, also offers accommodations, in case you would like to stay in the area a little longer. The owner is a german guy named Walter, and they give fair prices to all tourists.